Police are warning Australians to be vigilant after more than $2 million has been stolen from victims under a “Hi mum” text scam.
The scam involves the offender sending a text message from an unknown mobile number claiming to be their son or daughter.
The message will say they have lost their phone, telling the victim to delete their old number.
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Once the victim engages in conversation, the offender will make an excuse about how they are unable to make a payment before asking to borrow money or have a payment made on their behalf.
The offender will usually state it’s a matter of emergency before providing details for the payment.
NSW Police has provided an example of the messages, warning Aussie parents to “beware of this scam!!!!”.
“Hey mum it’s me. I got a new number, you can delete the old one,” the offender writes alongside a thumbs up and heart emoji.
“Which is it to me????” the victim responds.
“Your oldest and cutest child xx,” the offender writes, before continuing the conversation.
“I got a new phone. I’m still transferring everything. I have a little problem I can’t solve… Can you help me with it?
“Well because of the new device I have to transfer all apps, but the banking app has put a 48-hour security on the app due to fraud. All nice but I have to pay 2 payments. Very annoying because I can’t do anything about it. Could you possibly pay for me and I’ll return it as soon as possible???”
Social media users were quick to respond to the warning, admitting they too could fall for the scam.
“I’d fall for that… Not even gonna lie,” one person wrote.
“I’d know it wasn’t my kid by the way it’s written, but I can see how people can fall into this trap,” another wrote.
A third said they received a similar message, but challenged the sender.
“I received this. I replied back with ‘what is your middle name if this is truly my child?’ They never responded. Number blocked and reported,” they wrote.
Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Matthew Craft said victims of the “Hi Mum” scam dated back to October last year, but they have seen a “significant increase in reports” since May.
Victims in NSW and Victoria account for just over half of all “Hi Mum” scam reports made to Australian law enforcement bodies, followed by Western Australia and Queensland.
“We encourage people to look out for suspicious behaviors demonstrated by these scammers; including their failure to personalize any communication and excuses as to why they can’t speak on the phone,” Det Supt Craft said.
“If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile, particularly through social media or encrypted messaging, reach out to your relative by an alternative method of communication or call to confirm it is in fact them.
“In just a matter of months, the losses accumulated by Australian victims of this scam easily exceed $2 million when you consider the significant underreporting by victims of cybercrime generally.”
Det Supt Craft said the demographic of victims is predominantly aged over 55.
“Sadly, many parents are falling victim because they’re simply nice people who are concerned for their child’s welfare,” he said.
He said people who have lost money to a scam should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible and report the matter to the police.
For more advice on how to avoid scams and what to do if you or someone you know is a victim of a scam, visit the Scamwatch website.